LINCOLN PARK — Chicago could see a true cat cafe on North Clark Street if a cat advocate succeeds in a crowdfunding campaign.
Jennifer Tiner has created an Indiegogo campaign aimed at opening the Windy Kitty Cat Cafe and Lounge on a property on Clark Street just north of Fullerton Parkway.
It would give locals a chance to stop in and have a coffee or tea or a nosh in the company of cats, while also encouraging adoptions affiliated with Alive Rescue in Roscoe Village.
Tiner's Indiegogo page calls it "an expectation-free cat lounge with free-roaming, adoptable cats ready to give & get some love while you enjoy locally and ethically sourced food and drinks." She said it will accommodate 10-15 cats at any one time and will boast of being "a super-cool place to hang out with cats and no pressure to adopt."
She also plans cat yoga classes and movie nights in the cafe.
Tiner has raised about a tenth of the $35,000 she's seeking to open the store, with 11 days left on the time period she set herself. The Indiegogo page has been up just over a month.
Cat cafes have turned into a global phenomenon, and Tiner said she was inspired by visiting one while traveling in Scotland.
"It is just absolutely adorable," Tiner said Tuesday. "The people all looked so happy. The cats looked happy. And that's not what happens when you walk by a shelter."
According to Steve Dale, a certified animal behavior consultant and a host on WGN 720-AM who backs the cat-cafe idea, there are about 80 in the United States, but none yet in Chicago.
"Why in the world does Chicago not have this?" Tiner said.
Tree House Humane Society got positive response from its plans to open a cat cafe as part of a new adoption center in Rogers Park, but plans for the cafe element have been scaled back, and it's yet to open. Even so, Rogers Park Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) set up rules for the cafes with an ordinance last year.
Dale said the cat cafe backers already have been in talks with the office of Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) to settle zoning issues on the way to opening what they hope will be the city's first authentic cat cafe in Lincoln Park, this fall if all goes smoothly. Tiner said the business needs to be zoned to care for cats overnight, among other regulations.
Tiner envisions customers buying memberships (starting at $15) and making reservations for a set time to drop by, although walk-ins will be accepted at $10 an hour as space allows. They can hang out with the cats and, while no pressure is on to adopt one, it's certainly an option.
"There's still the adoption process," Dale said, but it figures to be more low-key than at a shelter like the Anti-Cruelty Society.
It should "help reduce the homeless-cat population in Chicago," Dale said, but he added that cat cafes "turn out to be good for the community" as well, in that the interaction between customers petting and playing with cats is likely to be a lot more extensive than the average exchange between people working on their computers at a Starbucks.
"People talk to one another," he said.
Tiner plans to offer cat education as well, including sessions on the trap, neuter and release of feral cats and bottle-feeding newborn kittens. An Irving Park resident, she has a cat of her own and is fostering a set of kittens she's had since they were two days old.
Dale said cat cafes have also proved to be a draw for tourists, both in America and abroad.
Tiner will get some support Wednesday from the Stan's Donuts at 2800 N. Clark St. It will donate 20 percent of sales to the cause from 4-8 p.m.
Speaking of Alive Rescue, it's also getting support from artist Tony Fitzpatrick, who's begun a campaign selling posters for $50 with a quarter of the proceeds going to the animal adoption agency.
Tiner cited statistics that more than 1 million cats are euthanized at U.S. pounds each year, adding the city's Department of Animal Care and Control has also expressed interest in supplying cats that might otherwise have to be put down.
"I want to make a tiny dent in that," she said, "and just do our share in this corner of the world."